L'Arche Sudbury has formally launched an awareness campaign working towards the creation of a new home for people with intellectual disabilities.
L'Arche is a registered charitable organization in Sudbury that provides housing and program services to adults with and without intellectual disabilities who can live, work and share their lives together.
Currently, L'Arche operates out of three homes in the New Sudbury area; they are Bethany House, Galilee House, and Jericho House.
On Wednesday, L'Arche celebrated with friends and supporters at Science North to promote fundraising for a new multi-unit building to be created at 2059 Bancroft Drive.
Although the 28-unit residential building has yet to break ground, Greater Sudbury city council members unanimously approved a rezoning application during this week’s planning committee meeting to help get the project rolling.
The new building will be a $24-million combined residential complex with both affordable housing for people living with intellectual disabilities, and market rentals for the general public. A community gathering space and offices will also be included.
Although the project is still in the planning stages, there was endorsement at the city council level this week.
“This development is badly needed for our entire community,” Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc said.
“I know the neighbours are welcoming this new development.”
Leduc’s ward includes the Minnow Lake neighbourhood where the two-storey building is to be constructed.
L'Arche Sudbury board chair Heather Westaway said Wednesday the organization is important to the social and cultural fabric of Sudbury.
"L'Arche Sudbury is one of eight Ontario communities connected to the 28 L'Arche communities across Canada and 149 L'Arche communities worldwide. Our collective mission is to make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities working together towards a more inclusive society," Westaway explained.
Executive director Jennifer McCauley talked about the special experiences of working in the L'Arche homes over the years, even though she is married with her own family and family home. She said her own children learned to see things differently.
Different Is Okay
"My boys were raised in the arms of the core members and assistants in L'Arche. From the very start, they shared life with people with disabilities, and they learned that different is okay. I believe that they are better men to this day because of that," said McCauley
Wednesday's event had several speakers endorsing the L'Arche project, including Sudbury MPP Jamie West. He said L'Arche means home to so many people for so many reasons. West said being at home is where people celebrate good times, even bad times, and most importantly they feel comfortable about being where they are.
"But honestly, when you think about it, home is where you want to go, where you're happiest. When you have great news to celebrate, home is where you want to be. It's also where you want to go to relax, where you feel comfortable," West told the audience.
He said when people are away or on vacation they always think about getting back home, even if they don't feel well.
"All you can think about is your couch, your friends, your family that are near you when you're sick. Home is where you feel safest in the worst of times when you hear bad news. And so home really is where the heart is," West said.
City of Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre also remarked on the importance of creating a community home for disadvantaged individuals, where people can go to experience love and belonging. He said he learned that many years ago seeing a member of his larger extended family who benefitted from being in a community home setting.
Lefebvre thanked the community for its support and said he is looking forward to seeing a new home for L'Arche.
Gerry Lougheed Jr. was another key speaker voicing his support. Lougheed said one of the best things he noticed about the gathering of support for L'Arche was that it was inclusive of all the various political organizations in Sudbury and that created a sense of home.
"When we talk about everybody as a home, look around this room,” Lougheed said. “Look around to see all the political people are all together. There's no partisanship. There's no different kinds of colors of orange, or blue or red. We're all here because we want to build L'Arche. Look around this room and see the inclusiveness of this room.”
He added that he personally had a good feeling about gathering in the Science North cavern with so many well-meaning people all willing to support the new L'Arche project.
"Because if you don't appreciate today, you don't get it. All right, if you don't appreciate that you came to this place and saw the best of humanity and the best experience, then I gotta tell you, don't get out of bed tomorrow morning. All right, it doesn't get any better than that," Lougheed smiled.
Westaway said the L'Arche organization is expecting final approvals in the near future from both the federal and provincial governments. Once that happens, she said L'Arche will be spelling out full details of the fundraising effort. With the total cost of the project expected to be $24 million, she said the local fundraising effort would likely be in the range of $4 million.
-With files from Tyler Clarke